Welcome to Basin & Range Outdoors

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat. ~Theodore Roosevelt

Basin & Range Outdoors was created to share the adventures experienced by two brothers in the American West. From the highest alpine terrains to the lowest sonoran deserts we will chronicle the pain and triumph that accompanies all of our outdoor pursuits.

There will be no high-fence hunts, no fly fishing lodges, no streamside caviar and wine breaks. Instead, you can expect cold nights sleeping in the dirt, flat tires on old trucks, and big dreams realized on small budgets. With Basin & Range Outdoors you will find useful reviews of hunting and fly fishing products, techniques, locations, and a general review of our outdoor expeditions on public land.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Desperate Times in Arizona Bear Country

Yesterday was the last day I would be in search of Arizona black bear this spring.  I had high hopes that more and more bears would be out roaming the hills as the season progressed.  By sun-up I was perched atop a rock cliff, with my binoculars, burning holes in the side of a chaparral and pinyon covered hill side.  By 10:30am I had seen nothing but deer.  My spirits were low.
I was sun burned, tired, and the wind started howling.  It was deperate times in Arizona bear country by 11:30am.  I was on the brink of calling it a day.  After 45 minutes of glassing a canyon and another 30 minutes of calling, by chance I decided to give one more look to a part of the canyon I had already looked over twice. 
As I tracked a steep boulder covered vein in the canyon side my binoculars picked up the slightest movement.  What looked like a black and brown boulder picked its head up and stuck its nose in the
air. It was a massive color phased black bear.  The bear was approximately 800 yds from where I sat across a brutal canyon.  He appeard to be dark brown with a light brown patch between his shoulder blades.  A stunning sight.
The few seconds it took for me to look up from my binoculars and describe to my hunting partner where this bear stood, he had bound off the boulder making a b-line for the canyon bottom.  Heading our way....  I picked the bear up through the thick canopy of trees galloping towards us.  I could see him pickup the pace as I called, then slow down when I stopped.  Just before he entered a thick oak flat at the bottom of the canyon, I caught a picture of him through my binoculars.  I believe him to be 400yds away at this point. 
My intial reaction to seeing this bear was that it would end up being the biggest bear I have killed to date.  Exceeding the bear I killed in spring of 2007 that had a 20 10/16" skull.  He appeared to have a very large body for the time of year.  My hands were shaking as I watched him.
As he entered the oak flat I lost any sight of the bear.  Because his path was heading directly for me I wasn't concerned.  I figured he would emerge from the brush any minute... presenting a perfect shot.  It never happened; that picture I snapped was the last I saw of the bear. I proceeded to call and glass for the next hour and a half with absolutely no response.  The bear couldn't have been more than 400yds straight down the canyon from me.  I don't know what happened.  Big old boars like him have a knack for not getting killed... so perhaps he caught my scent, got tired, maybe I called to loud, maybe he decided it was to much work to climb the steep canyon for a dying rabbit?  I will never know.
The ten minutes watching that bear and the proceeding hour and a half ended my 2010 spring bear hunt.  Uncharacteristically, as I hiked back to my truck, I took a second to absorb the scenery and give thanks for the opportunity to share a mountain canyon with such an awsome animal.

"Bears keep me humble. They help me to keep the world in perspective..."
Wayne Lynch ("Bears: Monarchs of the Northern Wilderness", 1993)